November 17, 2011
Wisconsin is the latest state to enact legislation authorizing powers of attorney for temporary delegation of parental authority. Traditional legal solutions for empowering another person to care for one’s children involve petitioning the court for guardianship or for out-of-home placement through social services. Parents not willing to go to such extremes might simply place children in the care of a relative or other trusted person, but this may present problems if health care or educational decisions must be made on behalf of the child.
Parents may have a variety of reasons for wishing to temporarily delegate parental authority. A military parent may wish to execute such a power of attorney while on deployment. Or a power of attorney may be used to manage the care of a child who is living away from home for school or while engaging in activities such as athletic training and competition.
Where a child is at risk, however, a parental power of attorney may not be used to avoid protective services. And many parental powers cannot be delegated under the power of attorney provision, such as the parent’s right to consent to marriage of a minor child, or to consent to military enrollment. Neither can it be used to voluntarily place the child in foster care without the parent’s consent.
A number of states have similar parental power of attorney provisions in place, with some variation state to state. For example, Ohio law provides for a Grandparent Power of Attorney (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3109.52), specifying that the person caring for the child must be a grandparent, while the person delegating the authority can be a “parent, guardian, or custodian.”
To look for similar laws in other jurisdictions, on WestlawNext try a search in statutes for parental power of attorney. On Westlaw.com, try “power of attorney” /s parent child. If you’d like to see a more comprehensive list, you can also check the 50 State Survey for Indemnification, Conservator, and Guardianship Issues (on Westlaw), which includes listings for delegation of parental powers where available.